Jar with Jaguars

Jar with Jaguars

AD 800-1250
Culture
Greater Nicoya
Country
Costa Rica
Style/Tradition
Belen Incised
jar
Earthenware with colored slips
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer
1993.604
. Jar with Jaguars. AD 800-1250. Earthenware with colored slips. Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer. 1993.604.
Dimensions
height: 5.875 in, 14.9225 cm; diameter: 8.125 in, 20.6375 cm
Department
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Collection
Art of the Ancient Americas

Jar with Jaguars
Belén Incised style
About A.D. 700–1350
Costa Rica, Greater Nicoya region  
Earthenware with white pigment
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1993.604

Fine craftsmanship is evident in the thin walls, polished surface, and elegantly simple shape of this jar.  Kilns were rarely used to fire pre-Columbian ceramics.  Instead, vessels were pit fired – placed in a shallow pit or depression in the ground and carefully surrounded and covered by fuel.  Burning it fired the ceramics: subtle gradations in the surface color were caused by variations in the firing atmosphere.  After firing, the artist incised three feline mages through the burnished surface, then rubbed white pigment into the lines to heighten the contrast.  

The felines on this vessel have powerful legs, large eyes, and sharp teeth that allude to the jaguar’s nocturnal hunting abilities.  But the anklets and tail patterns (traits not found on real animals) suggest that these felines have some supernatural qualities or associations.